On and Off The Mountain-Stephanie Grubert

Here we are well into December and temperatures are relatively mild. There has only been a scant trace of snow and some days the sun shines so bright we flirt with the 50’s and 60’s. The past weekend was cool but bright, at least in the afternoons. I went out for a nice walk both days. Sunday is no hunting so I went straight up my usual route along Heslop Road on up into the gamelands to the drainpipe marker. That landmark is about a mile from the end of the beautiful swamp and another mile to Brown Street in Fairview Township. Heslop was a public thoroughfare for a hundred years. Now it is just a hunting/hiking trail. The rugged terrain discourages most walkers and the trucks only come through with hunters. How far can you drag your deer in the Gamelands?

The Rifle Deer Season extends until Saturday November 12. With the warm December weather here for at least another week. I may get another hike or two in for 2015.

Gypsy Moths Coming

Our yard is sparkling now that Charlie has scraped up every stray leaf. The grass is still green. The gypsy moth egg masses hang on the trees waiting for the warm May weather to hatch and continue their devastation.

I wrote a column a few weeks ago about my neighborhood’s experience with the Luzerne County Gypsy Moth eradication program. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) sets the parameters for the shared spraying program with residential property owners. DCNR required 500-foot buffer zones around residences as a condition of participation in the program. In my Wilderness Estates neighborhood of 61.5 acres the total sprayed acreage requirement was 122 acres. At $55 dollars per acre the total cost was $6710. Only 10 property owners signed on to participate. Four paid into the fund. One property owner objected and the deal was off at any price. Payments were returned.

The administration of the spraying program was negligent. Individual applicants were never given an answer.

The Luzerne County Engineering Office managed the program. 21,272 acres were approved for participation. Cost for those acres would have been billed $1,169,960 at $55 per acre. And that was only the property owners share of the cost. Double that amount for what the DCNR spraying program had estimated.

Only $176,770 was received by Luzerne County from property owners willing to participate. Did they each pay their share? Or did they pay only for their actual acreage at the $55 per acre? The money collected was a million dollars short.

Luzerne County released information last week that properties in 28 municipalities were to be sprayed in 2016. Mountaintop including 909 acres in Rice Township and 503 acres in Wright Township are on the list.

Last week the Rice Township supervisors discussed the spraying situation at their public meeting. Residents are asked to show their interest in a township wide spraying program through a survey on the township’s website or by filling in a request at the township building. I have no idea how many acres encompass Rice Township, but it is sure to be a lot more than 909 acres. The PA Gamelands 207 on the state forestland alone is 1,127 acres.

The Gypsy moth larvae are dormant now but they will awaken to a hearty feast and the deaths of many trees come spring without a spraying plan.

Day in Court

The Crestwood School District will have their day in court Thursday December 10. The issue is Crestwood’s representation on the Wilkes Barre Area Career and Technical Center (WBACTC ) board. Crestwood has 83 students attending half-day classes in the current school year 2015-2-016, 50 in the morning and 33 in the afternoon. For the 2014-2015 year Crestwood paid $787,715 for 70 students. Cost per student was 10,940.49 per year. Crestwood is also assessed for debt payments owed by the WBACTC. Crestwood is seeking a second seat as representation is based on census numbers of participating districts, and it now has more population that Nanticoke Area.

The WBACTC board oversees administration, awards contracts and approves hirings at the school. Crestwood’s new representative is William Thomas, whose wife has been employed at the WBACTC for a number of years. Newly elected board member William Jones’ wife is also a WBACTC employee. Jones was previously on the Crestwood board at the time of his wife’s hiring.

The WBACTC board has always been a fertile ground for nepotistic hirings. Each member district, Wilkes Barre, Pittston, Hanover, Nanticoke and Crestwood have had their share of the spoils. It is only fair that the board makeup be apportioned according to their charter, which is based on census population. Nanticoke currently has 2 seats and a population of 19,104. Crestwood has 20,018 and only one seat. Time to change seats. But then the whole computation is wrong. Wilkes Barre has population of 59,879 and has 5 representatives and is entitled by population to only 3 seats. Pittston has 27,837 population and is barely entitled to their second seat. Hanover is the smallest participating district with 15,439 population and one seat.

An overhaul of the entire board seat apportionment issue is needed.